David Heinemeier Hansson

April 23, 2021

Legacy without nostalgia

It was Signal v Noise that connected Jason and I, back in 2001. A quick call for programming help, answered from four thousand miles away, lead to a twenty-years-and-counting partnership.

It was on Signal v Noise where Jason and I first wrote most of the essays that became REWORK, which has since sold over half a million copies around the world. As well as all the other books we've written together.

There aren't many blogs that've been around for that long, been part of shaping so many consequential debates, and helped so many people see things differently. Since 1999, but now no more. After twenty two years we've decided to end SvN.

Over the past few years, Jason and I simply lost some of the energy and nerve for writing there. The kind Signal v Noise had when it was best. Not because our intrinsic energy or nerve had vanished, but because the company blog no longer felt like the place to put it.

I'm still not entirely sure why that is. Maybe it was the lure of Twitter that zapped some of the zest. Maybe it was the weight of running a larger company that finally caught up to us. Maybe it was a change in the times. But writing for Signal v Noise no longer felt effortless.

Writing for HEY World does. Feel effortless, that is. Jason and I now both write unapologetically from our own, personal perspectives again. In part because HEY World is just an email, in part because we're now clearly speaking for ourselves again.

That's when I enjoy writing the most. When it's effortless. When the words just pour out of my fingers, and I can hit send a few edits later. When it stops feeling like that, I stop writing. And instead end up taking the ideas to a cheap, ephemeral medium like Twitter, only to waste those thoughts on the void.

But don't I feel bad about us ending a blog with such history and provenance? No. I don't.

I'm just not a nostalgic person. In fact, I'm deeply skeptical of nostalgia. It too often feels like a trap to romanticize the past at the expense of the future. If you fall in love with who you once were, it's too easy to forget to keep going. I want to keep going.

On the flipside, I enjoy the idea of a legacy. But as milestones in the rearview mirror. There to remind you of where you were, but without any obligation to stop and linger and fawn over every one. 20, 21, 22... Keep going.

So that's what the end of Signal v Noise feels like to me. A set of milestones. Twenty years of milestones. But no nostalgia.

Besides, this isn't a wake. It's a celebration! Both Jason and I have written more in the past two months ago, since the launch of HEY World, than we had in more than a year previously. That's the spirit of Signal v Noise, the writing.

The legacy is still there. We'll maintain them until the end of the internet, just like we do with our products. And then we'll keep going, keep thinking, keep prodding, keep provoking, keep writing. Right here. Enjoy!

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About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.